Raiders vs. 49ers Fan Brawl: Why NFL Made Right Call Ending Preseason Rivalry

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IAugust 22, 2011

Rivalries are embedded in the fabric of sports.

But sometimes rivalries transcend the boundaries of the playing field and go to a much darker place.

After Saturday night's preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders at Candlestick Park, two men were shot outside the stadium and one man was beaten unconscious in one of the stadium's bathrooms.

Because of this, Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury-News is reporting that an NFL source has told him the 49ers and Raiders will discontinue their exhibition games from here on out.

At the time of the incident, one man donning an anti-49ers T-shirt was deemed to be in critical condition after getting shot "two to four" times in the stomach. The only reason he has been upgraded to fair condition is because he was able to drive his truck to security and stumble out onto the pavement.

The 26-year-old man who was beaten unconscious in the bathroom has been upgraded from serious to fair condition.

Being from the Bay Area, I'm rather close to this rivalry. I've watched this rivalry in action. It's always been on the brink of exploding into tragedy, but has laid dormant for years.

Still, you never are quite prepared for news like this. Keep in mind, this comes just five months after San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow was beaten into a coma on Opening Day outside Dodgers Stadium, allegedly by Dodgers fans.

It brings up the question, is the NFL right in banning the 49ers and Raiders from playing each other in the preseason or is this an overreaction?

I'm not going to lie. I've gotten into, shall we say, debates with Raiders fans inside stadiums, being a 49ers fan. Rivalries are so exciting because they bring out the passion of diehards. They make sports more interesting, where one win a season can make some fans happy as long as it came against their bitter rivals.

But there's a clear line between bantering and taking it a step further, when debate turns into a life-threatening situation.

I understand that this was a singular incident, if this happened every year between the 49ers and Raiders, they wouldn't have had the privilege of playing each other at this point.

But there also is a disturbing trend in rivalries nowadays. It's not just that people have suffered life-threatening injuries because of these rivalries, it's that nobody should have to go to a game worried about not making it out alive.

This is sports, folks. We've grown up with sports as kids. When did sports diverge from pure fun and a release from the everyday pressures of life to a place resembling a gladiator's arena?

However it got to this point, the NFL is right in discontinuing preseason games between the 49ers and Raiders. One incident is enough.

Nobody wanted it to come to this, but the trend must stop. There must now be precautions taken in rivalry environments.

Maybe when fans begin respecting each other this ugly pattern will end.

Until then, rivalries have been tainted for what they were meant to be: two teams giving us a great game, displaying the heart and perseverance we've come to love in sports.

For an alternate take on what should be done with the Battle of the Bay, Bleacher Report's Zachary D. Rymer argues the NFL made the wrong call in putting an end to the preseason rivalry.

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